a film by Heiner Carow
1989 | 108 mins | East Germany
›› Coming Out
coming out prior to the fall of the wall
Coming Out by Heiner Carow This is one of the landmark works of gay cinema; not by way of the narrative, but rather on account that it marks the first and only gay film to originate from the former East Germany. It tells, in effect, the coming out story of Philipp; a newly appointed teacher who is at odds with both the educational establishment and the cries of his heart. It is one that longs for the company of men, but prefers to hide in a passionless heterosexual relationship with fellow teacher Tanja. That is, until the handsome Matthias enters his life; a seemingly sexually confident young man whose outer bravado conceals a failed suicide attempt. Yet just as night follows day, fate has a way of throwing these two young men together. Only to say 'yes' to relationship bliss with Matthias, is to face the consequences of coming out in the strict heterosexual educational environment of a Communist State.

In many ways, this is a unique work. Unique in the sense that this feature transcends its narrative, given it premiered on the night that the Berlin Wall came down in November 1989. Thus what we have, in effect, is a time capsule courtesy of a coming out tale that committed to celluloid a graphic depiction of what it was like to live as a homosexual prior to German unification. Yet to what degree this representation of homosexuality is an accurate picture of a gay lifestyle in the former East Germany, is open to question. This is not to take away anything from this production, one that offers an intriguing insight into the East Berlin underground gay bars of the period, but it is to say that as this work was produced with the 'official co-operation' of the State and its studio DEFA, 'certain compromises' may well have been made in order to secure its release.

Coming Out by Heiner Carow Then again, the fact that this film was produced, is a remarkable achievement in itself, given that and unlike many a title I could mention, this eighties Communist backed feature was not afraid to show the passionate sight of two men in bed with each other.

To that end and whilst Dagmar Manzel as Tanja provides strong support, it is Matthias Freihof as Philipp and inparticular Dirk Kummer as Matthias who hold this work together, one that is filled with a natural honesty in capturing the raw emotions of being true to thyself. Sure and as you would expect, this piece has somewhat dated, but it equally remains a stark reminder of coming out prior to the fall of the wall, namely a fascinating record of what once was, both sexuality and politically.
available on DVD as part of the Network catalogue
starring: Matthias Freihof, Dagmar Manzel, Dirk Kummer, Michael Gwisdek, Gudrun Ritter, Walfriede Schmitt
Copyright 2004 David Hall - www.gaycelluloid.com.
archive reference #019
›› previous page | back to top | print me ‹‹
click for gay celluloid - home